Oil traders accused in kickback scheme may be headed for trial

Clyde Meltzer and Bernard Langley, the oil traders who are accused of working with a former LyondellBasell employee in a multimillion-dollar oil shipping/kickback scheme, appear to be preparing to take their case to trial.

On Friday attorneys for the two men filed motions to subpoena others in connection with the case — presumably to include LyondellBasell, the chemical plant and refinery owner where co-defendant Jonathan Barnes, of  Bellaire, worked.

Investigators were first notified of the alleged scheme by Lyondell officials who fired Barnes after discovering he agreed to above-market shipping rates when buying Venezuelan oil through companies tied to Meltzer and Langley.

Barnes is cooperating with investigators, but he remains jailed. He pled guilty to charges related to his part in the scheme and could face up to 55 years in jail.

Last week, Meltzer’s son, Ian, began soliciting friends of his father to help pay for Meltzer’s defense.

The April 14 e-mail from the younger Meltzer, which the Chronicle received a copy of, was titled “Clyde Meltzer Defense Fund.”

The e-mail notes that while Ian’s father has been held without bail since Dec. 9 “… his spirits are good given his outlook on the case and he is looking forward to getting his day in court and putting this behind him.”

He is a slim 189 lbs and his blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc have never been better! Some of you have sent cards, books, etc all of which are greatly appreciated.”

The letter encourages friends to write Meltzer at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston or to send books (which must be shipped via Amazon.com, the letter notes, presumably for security reasons). After that comes the plea for financial help:

Unfortunately, a lot of his assets have been frozen pending the outcome of the trial and he has asked me to ask you for assistance with his legal fees.  Anyone who has been through this, or who has witnessed someone close to them go through this, is probably well aware that in addition to the price you and your family pay in terms of emotional distress, the financial aspect of the situation can take its toll as well.”

I ask that you consider donating to Clyde’s defense fund if you are able to do so.”

According to letters written to a Judge Sim Lake on Clyde Meltzer’s behalf, he was quick to help others financially, so maybe supporters will return the favor.

A trial date has been set for August 8, 2011 at 1 p.m. before Judge Lake. The date may be subject to change, however.